NEW YORK – Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wednesday as equity markets reopened after a damaging storm in the Northeast forced a two-day market closure.
Futures were off their highs of the premarket session, an indication that trading would likely be volatile following the first multiple-day closure of the stock market since 1888 for weather-related reasons.
The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq shuttered operations on Monday, hours before hurricane Sandy made landfall on the U.S. eastern seaboard with devastating consequences. Transport into and around New York City remained limited on Wednesday, while wide-scale power outages meant many would be unable to work from home.
Some analysts said an overreaction and higher-than-normal volume was possible as pent-up demand is realized during early trading Wednesday following the closures, which came during the busy corporate earnings season and at the end of the fiscal year for some funds.
Chris Bertelsen, chief investment officer at Global Financial Private Capital in Sarasota, Florida, said the day would be marked by "the compression effect," marked by above-average volume as "one day of trading basically represents three."
"However, that's volume to the upside since we've had some positive underpinnings with strong earnings from Ford and BP and good news out of Europe," he said. "If we had been open over the past two days that would've been reflected in the market, but since we were dark, all that is going to come out today."
Stocks moving in premarket trading included Ford Motor Co , Advanced Micro Devices and Home Depot , all of which climbed.
Home Depot, a Dow component, is viewed as a company that may benefit from the storm as people buy rebuilding supplies. Insurance companies, which may be on the hook for billions of dollars of damage relating to the storm, will also be in view, as will airlines, which canceled thousands of flights in the northeast because of Sandy.
S&P 500 futures rose 6.4 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 56 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 2.25 points.
All of the U.S. stock market operators took part in coordinated testing Tuesday for trading on NYSE's backup system, in case it needed to be used.
The exercise was also aimed at allowing member trading firms, many of which were operating on backup systems due to complications from the storm, a chance to ensure they're ready for resumption of trading Wednesday.
Ford posted a third-quarter profit that trounced analysts' forecasts on Tuesday, driven by higher vehicle prices and record profit margins of 12 percent in North America. Wednesday will be the first day investors will be able to trading on the earnings.
General Motors reported earnings Wednesday that beat expectations, even as other companies, including Pfizer Inc , delayed the release of its results because of the impact of the storm. GM shares climbed before the bell.
Walt Disney Co agreed to buy filmmaker George Lucas's Lucas film Ltd and its "Star Wars" franchise for $4.05 billion in cash and stock, a blockbuster deal that includes the surprise promise of a new film in the series in 2015. Disney, a Dow component, rose in premarket trading.
Investors will be looking ahead to Friday's non-farm payrolls report, the last before the November 6 presidential election, which is expected to show 125,000 jobs added in October, up 11,000 from the previous month.
(Additional reporting by Ed Krudy; Editing by Bernadette Baum)